George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, 2 January 1795

From the Commissioners for the District of Columbia

City of Washington January 2d 1795.

Sir,

We did ourselves the honor of inclosing, in our answer to your letter, two Communications to Messrs Trumbu⟨ll.1 W⟩e could not at that time determine what should be done relative to Mr Hatfield. We require all the aid of Talents, but the inadequacy of our Funds restrain our Engagements. We have met with several Disappointments, not only in the inability of the Bank here to give us accommodation, but also in other respects, particularly in the Virginia Donation.2 We view, and review the magnitude of our Undertaking; which, requiring all our Attention, leaves less time to individual Exertion in the Superintendance of the public Buildings, and we are convinced of the necessity of constant attention to adjust the various Members of the Work, to preserve an elegant Correspondence—A Superintendant of great ability, whose time will be wholly engaged is therefore requisite; and when we consider how much is demanded here for very ordinary Talents; when we are also encouraged by the moderation of Mr Hatfields Desires, though we have hitherto declined giving any Expectation, yet on more mature reflection, we think the public may be materially benefitted by the offer we now make him.3 We have been so fortunate as to make contracts for Freestone, which we hope will prove very advantageous4—We have the honor to be with great respect, Sir your most Obt Servants

Danl Carroll
Gusts Scott
William Thornton

LS, DLC:GW; LB, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802.

Secretary of State Edmund Randolph replied to this letter on 9 Jan., promising that “The letter inclosed in yours of the 2d instant to the President, shall be forwarded to Mr Trumbull.” Randolph then focused on the commissioners’ problems with the Bank of Columbia, pointing them to his letter of 2 Oct. 1794 (see Randolph’s first letter to GW of 6 Oct., n.3) and stating that GW was “extremely solicitous to know, whether the Bank refused to do, what it was recommended to you to ask of them, before you closed with Mr Greenleaf, or whether any unexpected disability or disinclination to aid you has overtaken that institution” (DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters).

1The commissioners were referring to the enclosures with their letter to GW of 18 Dec. 1794 (see note 2 to that letter), which replied to GW’s letter to them of 27 Nov. 1794.

2The commissioners believed that they had secured a promise from the Bank of Columbia for an “accommodation” of $60,000, but on 19 Nov. 1794, William Deakins, Jr., informed them that the bank “cannot at present assist you with further negotiations” (Commissioners to Randolph, 16 Jan. 1795, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802; Deakins to Commissioners, 19 Nov. 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802; see also Benjamin Stoddert to Commissioners, 19 Sept. 1794, DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802).

In December 1790 the Virginia legislature approved a grant of $120,000 in three equal yearly payments to assist the construction of buildings in the federal district (Va. Statutes description begins William Waller Hening, ed. The Statutes at Large; Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature, in the Year 1619. 13 vols. 1819–23. Reprint. Charlottesville, Va., 1969. description ends [Hening], 13:125). However, the state’s second payment was much delayed (see Commissioners for the District of Columbia to GW, 8 Feb. 1793, and n.4 to that document), and the third was still incomplete (see Randolph to Jacquelin Ambler, 21 Aug. 1794, n.2). On 29 Dec. 1794 the commissioners wrote the new Virginia governor, Robert Brooke, to inform him that $36,000 “still remains due to the City” and “earnestly solicit” his “attention to as speedy a payment of the balance still due as the state of your Treasury will permit” (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802).

3The commissioners wrote John Trumbull on this date with their offer to George Hadfield: “If you think three hundred Guineas per annum would engage his services as a superintendent of the Capitol, we beg you will mention this sum to him.” They also offered to pay Hadfield’s passage (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Sent, 1791–1802. See also William Thornton to Trumbull, 6 Jan. 1795 (Harris, William Thornton Papers description begins C. M. Harris, ed. Papers of William Thornton: Volume One, 1781-1802. Charlottesville, Va., 1995. description ends , 291–94). For Hadfield’s acceptance, see Trumbull’s letters to the commissioners of 8 and 9 March 1795 (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Letters Received, 1791–1802).

4On 17 Dec. 1794 the commissioners contracted with Daniel Carroll Brent and John Cooke for the delivery of 3,500 tons of “good Sound Ashler & Bill free Stone” in 1795 and 4,500 tons in 1796; and on 20 Dec. 1794 the commissioners contracted with James Reid and James Smith for the delivery of 2,000 tons of stone in 1795 and 2,000 tons in 1796 (DNA: RG 42, Records of the Commissioners for the District of Columbia, Proceedings, 1791–1802).

Index Entries